With climate change, forest fires are now becoming common in England. And not just due to increasing weather, but due to irresponsible behaviour of people dropping cigarette litter and also due to barbecues. Fire lanterns are another hazard (one German zoo fire killed several animals, when one dropped into an enclosure).
Artist Ashley Wolff created this beautiful book to inspire children to understand and help prevent wildfires. Many children want to be firefighters and her son really became one, working to put them out in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and California. This is a story to salute them.
The Forestry Commission reports that there have been thousands of forest fires in recent years across Great Britain, and as anyone knows, one small fire can create huge devastation to both land and wildlife. And also endanger human lives (including the firefighters who have to try to put them out). Most common in dry warm weather, just one dropped cigarette butt is akin to ‘putting a match to paper’.
Wildfires are obviously very serious and we all felt heartbreak for the creatures that suffered in recent wildfires in Australia and California. Wildfires are also very common in southern Europe (often due to mass-planting of eucalyptus trees to make ‘biodegradable packaging’ for chocolate and coffee wrappers, so try to find loose coffee and chocolate, or brands wrapped in conventional paper that you can just recycle.
Tips to Help Prevent Wildfires
- Never drop cigarette butts (that includes car windows). See ways to prevent cigarette litter.
- Only have safe barbecues in protected areas, follow advice.
- Recycle glass litter (sunshine can start fires from glass).
- Keep children away from flammables (matches, lighters)
- Sweep and clear flammables (like dead leaves) from rain gutters.
- If you have a chimney or thatched roof, see fire safety tips.
- Never release fire lanterns in the sky (the spikes also harm wildlife).
- Buy loose coffee & chocolate in easy-to-recycle paper or cardboard packaging. Although biodegradable, ‘eucalyptus’ packaging involves mass over-planting of highly flammable trees, and this is in turn is causing wildlife.
How to Stay Safe During a Wildfire
- If you see a wildlife, stay calm and get all creatures safely out of area. Call 999 with details and location. Those living in rural areas should ensure their homes have a visible name or number, for easy location by fire crews of the address. Check current risk in your area with at Met Office Fire Severity Index.
- If you have to drive away in smoke, keep the windows closed, turn off air conditioning and keep air vents closed.
- Turn gas off at the meter and close valves on propane tanks, and if you can, remove combustible window coverings and move combustible furniture away from windows and doors, to the centre of the room.
- Connect hoses to outside taps. If you can’t find nearby water, look for shelter in a clear area near rocks and lie down covered in soil and breathe air close to the ground.
- If you have horses or a farm, sweep hay and other combustible feed away from barnes and stables, and close windows/doors to prevent embers reaching buildings, and consider opening barn doors.
- Carry wet towels to cover bare skin (carry a damp hankie over your face). Wrap feet, if you need to run through a small fire.
- After a fire, get permission before returning to ensure fire is out, and beware of hazards like smouldering trees and fallen poles and wires. Use rubber gloves to clean up. Find more info at Red Cross.